On February 7, 2020, the Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) facilitated the film screening of the Cave, named as one of the best films in 2020 by the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and the New York Times. The Cave is a documentary film about the story of humanitarian Dr. Amani Ballour and her team and how they risk their lives to provide medical support for the residents of a Syrian city under attack. The screening took place at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC, and was followed by a panel discussion with two distinguished physicians and human rights activists. MALA's Board of Director, Baktash Ahadi, an accomplished film producer, storyteller, and former combat interpreter for US Armed Forces in Afghanistan moderated the panel discussion.
The Cave was nominated for the 2020 Academy Award Best Documentary Features. Directed by Oscar nominee Feras Fayyad, known for his movie Last Men in Aleppo, this is a tremendous film that Variety notes has a 'defiantly countering the a sense of hope.' Our guest speakers, President of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) DC chapter Dr. Hisham Naji and MedGlobal volunteer Dr. Henna Querishi discussed the importance of the film in raising awareness on the situation people trapped in conflict zones face.
They drew on their personal experiences helping civilians, especially women and children, during the war and the challenges physicians face due to lack of medical equipment, medicine, and food for the patients. Dr. Naji and Dr. Qureishi talked about the unique circumstances that the medical teams face in conflict zones or refugee camps, including the impact on the mental health of the medical staff and the ethical dilemmas of choosing whom to save given their limited time and resources.
Raising awareness by amplifying voices in our community aligns with MALA's mission, and our partnership with the National Geographic and Picture Motion made this event a possibility.
By Zainab Zeb Khan, President of MALA and Picture Motion Impact Advisory Board Member